Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 3, 2019

Somewhere Along The Way

We took a short trip along the coast into Maine over the weekend. It was to celebrate my arrival here 77 years ago yesterday. I sat and read something or other, an article in a magazine, while Mariellen, my wife, made sure everything was safe for us to leave; the plants were watered, the faucets all closed…things like that. And, of course, reading, and the approach of en event like becoming rather old, got me thinking. One of the things I read was an article about Hemingway, and what moved him along while he was writing. Pilgrimage. After reading, I watched the ice on the river outside. And, I doodled. What follows are my silly doodles:

I walk along counting my fingers, another Santiago, another Compostela.

Others count, too, whatever will do, railroad ties, traffic lights

Old barns in broken fields,, children underfoot, lost chances,

Real dreams and old romances.

All I have left are fingers and memories over and over, Amen, amen!

While roadside flowers lift and fall into the weeds and pretty little angel eyes wink at me in the moon bright sky. Always under them I pass by.

Who leaves, who comes, who goes, I don’t but some One knows, who clears

And builds the road ahead which will be finished, finished and done, done when all are not dead.

The fish in the river down the hill beneath the running ice will tell me when they know and when it is at last done,

When hill and me and stars are done, when all at last are one.

The little wild boy on the shore of the sea, the wild sea,

The same one later on the ice kissed bank who calls to me

The ice no thicker than a finger where I would walk, walk

To the other side. But I never tried for father took and held my hand.

But I would have, yes! I would have gone, left the shore’s safe land

And walked across the river, to the river’s other side.

Not a thing will stay as it was, but will become as it was.

I like to watch the little, quicker, ice run down the river just outside to catch the slowing to a stop edge of the larger plodding floe. Joined, they go to the waiting sea below. One thing now when just two before. Not so long to stay for sure. But now, now they are! The “marriage” of ice is no such thing as that but it is a joining sure. For some, a while, a day, unless in what we might call a “frozen waste”..no such thing..they stay. Like a white duck on the edge looking for its original self in black water, Just there, doin’ what it oughter.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 18, 2019

No Swimming Today!

The lifeguards are on strike.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | January 10, 2019

Brave the New World

In Chapter 6 of the book, 1984, there is a little bit of cultural orientation, I call it, going on. We ought to know what that world is like, and so we get, sort of, a tour in the form of sitting in on two fellows have lunch at work. Orwell is painting the the society that his “hero” lives in. And at the point I want to mention, he is using again the only two colors that appear..to me..in the book; gray and black


He has been talking about the social life, and gotten around to relations between men and women; to sex. He’d spent a good bit of time on what passes for friendship, for want of a better word, in the place. This little bit, after a longer discussion about the sexes and society is kind of gut wrenching.


Winston and his wife are separated, because The Party “did not permit divorce”, and he can’t seem to remember much at all about her. It suffices us to know what little her remembers; that she was tall and very straight with splendid movements. She also had an aquiline nose. The rest..


We learn that early in the marriage he discovered she was more of a cut-out than a person: “(S)he had without exception the most stupid, empty vulgar mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none, that was not capable of swallowing if the party handed it out to her. “The human sound track” he nicknamed her in his own mind. Yet he could have endured living with her if it had not been for just one thing – sex.”


Katherine had been taken over by the party, I figure. I have been sitting thinking about that and the next few pages in the book where Orwell describes Winston’s further thoughts about the man and woman thing.
To be honest, the whole thing frightens me. In a book I recently finished, Europe Central, by William Vollman, there is a lot of talk about that old dance, “Changing Partners”, especially in Soviet Russia, where the Party preferred its women and men to be liberated, and the state, as in Nazi Germany, to bring up the children as good little Bundists.

Frankly, it scares me. There are too many frightening parallels between Orwell’s and Vollman’s writing with what fills the papers and the broadcast news, and have been filling it almost to the exclusion of anything else. I become more and more convinced of two things, we are at war, and we are losing.

I went off to bed last night with these words from 1984, the last ones I read before closing the book:

“He saw himself standing there in the dim lamplight, with the smell of bugs and cheap scent in his nostrils, and in his heart a feeling of deep resentment which even at that moment was mixed up with the thought of Katherine’s white body, frozen forever by the hypnotic power of the Party. Why did it always have to be like this?”

I went with these words and the thoughts of those words carried forward to today; Pussy Hats, billboards shouting out slogans about death; riots and burnings, mean and ugly people demanding more death; rich, corrupt, foolish and empty hearted and headed men and women in positions of authority and influence supporting the surgical mutilation of young children and adults, the perversions and diseases of mind and body, and soul, things once thought deep sins and deadly madness, now celebrated as wonderful advances; and being proud of their deformities of character, mind and soul; all day and everyday shouting out in our own “Newspeak” the glory of this brave new world covered in dust.

And, I thought, not for the first time, that I am lucky to be the age I am, and near what we used to call the “Dirt Nap”. There is no gray. All is black.

Must it always be like this?

Posted by: Peadar Ban | December 3, 2018

STONE

A year or so would pass not so long ago before either of us would have to go to the doctor’s office for a “checkup”.  Now we uncover aches, pains, spots and bumps, symptoms of all kinds that merit the pursed lips and worried looks of professionals at least once a month.  We have a new car which already knows the way much more than any horse and sleigh might have as it takes Grandma and Grandpa to clinic, hospital, office and or pharmacy.

It is nearly 7:00am.  Beyond the wall of trees, a few dozen yards away down the river the sun, at least a mile from where it rose at Summer’s height, shines its first pale light, begins to creep up the sky and reveal the pale blue, the cold blue of a winter sky. Too early!  Too darn early.  There’ll be no angry red swelling of clouds today, and spits of cold rain throughout as yesterday’s sullen weather provided.

And all is quiet.  The river, like a silken sheet beneath the morning’s stillness, is slipping by at a height born from weeks of rain, it seems, which brought on us a fullness usually formed by winter’s snow melt from the mountains.  It will be cold today; cold and still.  And, I have a doctor’s appointment at 3:00pm.   

https://photos.app.goo.gl/JdxSAWSpAXpVcuYa8

The neighbor’s dog barks at the day; one, two and then a volley of three before it has satisfied itself that the world has been arranged as it would have it so.  Birds?  They are somewhere in a tree nearby stoking the fire.

My coffee grows cold on the desk, and I have been here less than ten minutes.

Did I mention I had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon at three?  His office is a busy place.  Everyone there seems my age, and limps awfully as they struggle from check in to a chair and begin waiting to be called, then disappear behind a door.  The television screens don’t mind.  They flash pictures and blab words uninterrupted by anything that happens below them, chronicling nonsense and news from morning until evening; scores and temperatures, disasters and death across the world, and very well dressed young men and women to explain it all to the the room not listening.  Well, the weather does get the odd glance.

Yesterday, or the day before, I can’t remember, I began to read a new book by Anthony Esolen.  His newest is titled “Nostalgia”.  Here is a paragraph about the word from something called The Online Etymology Dictionary:

nostalgia (n.)

1770, “severe homesickness considered as a disease,” Modern Latin, coined 1688 in a dissertation on the topic at the University of Basel by scholar Johannes Hofer (1669-1752) as a rendering of German heimweh “homesickness” (for which see home + woe). From Greek algos “pain, grief, distress” (see -algia) + nostos “homecoming,” from neomai “to reach some place, escape, return, get home,” from PIE *nes- “to return safely home” (cognate with Old Norse nest “food for a journey,” Sanskrit nasate “approaches, joins,” German genesen “to recover,” Gothic ganisan “to heal,” Old English genesen “to recover”). French nostalgie is in French army medical manuals by 1754.

The author’s treatment of the word in his first chapter is both wider and deeper, and a bit more charitable to the thing, I think; but, I happen to think nothing here, if he ever reads this (which is not very likely unless I put it in his hands) would be strange.  He would recognize and understand every bit of the thing.

It’s not a sickness, nostalgia, I think.  If you ask me, and you needn’t, nostalgia’s more like an ache.  My first wife, Sheila, may she rest in peace, had a lot of bone breaks as a child.  She was a delicate person, but in body only.  In spirit she was the toughest, truest person I met until I met the woman she picked for me, lady who now sleeps quietly downstairs.  Anyway, back to Sheila and her broken bones.

She described the “knowledge”, the deep feeling within when a bone was broken, that something was out of place, something important and necessary.  It was almost a kind of mourning for what had once been good, whole and the way it was meant to be.  The feeling was always the same she said.  Something which had been whole and good, no longer was that way.  The pain itself told her, of course, that there was a very bad thing which had occurred on a physical level.  But, this was the “feeling” of change, and as she described it I could only think of loss.  It was something deeper  almost spiritual; and it was no different when she broke her back than when she broke her collar bone, or an arm or, even a finger.  She was not whole, she was broken.  And, unless something solid and white was sticking out of her skin no one else would know; and until she told me, she hadn’t ever mentioned this deeper, existential hurt to anyone. 

Perhaps she was experiencing “Nostalgia” for what had been whole and was now broken.  I can tell you that my latest trip to the doctor’s office this afternoon involves an experience like that nostalgia.  I have had rotator cuff surgery on my left shoulder, which was never broken, just worn out after the abuse I’ve given it,  I am nostalgic for the life I was able to lead when it wasn’t a torn thing.  But that’s a surface reaction.

Sheila described something like a change in the soul, a change form what had made her who she was, and now was not.

Toward the end of his long introduction, Dr. Esolen writes about a French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, who is talking about loss; in this instance a loss of culture, a neglect of the past and the tremendous sensation, that, it seems, almost no one feels, because, well to borrow from Sheila, the bones, the connections, have been broken; and they can’t go on without either the path, or the tools to negotiate it.  The book he refers to is something called “Homo Viator”.  I suppose one could render the title as  “Man the Traveler”.  We have a place to go, every one of us, and we have been shown the way by the ones gone before.  Or had been, until recently.

Dr. Esolen concludes his mention of Marcel with a short quote from the book: “Perhaps a stable order can only be established on earth if man always remains acutely conscious that his condition is that of a traveler.”  In other words, we were started on a journey and we have a destination.  We are, more or less, all going home. 

How do we get there?

That was the question that gave me pause, the question that the last sentence of the introduction to the book seemed to be prompting me to ask.  The answer I thought, had to have something to do with whatever “equipment” I had to make the journey. I sat looking out of the window at what little of the world I could see around me and thought for a while about the journey so far, and how much time I might have before it is finished…at home or short of the mark by a foot or a mile.

It was Samuel Johnson who said: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

I began to realize that I have had help all along the way, and companions, too, but, sometimes like Ado Annie, a guy just can’t say no. You know?  No matter what he believes is down the road waiting for him.  I began to think, like that old song, that I had a heart made of stone: https://youtu.be/4x_Dem0JbWM

I never finished the book, “Heaven’s My Destination”, by Thornton Wilder but maybe I should have all those years ago.  My dim memory of it is that he nearly ran out the string, and was sort of put back on his feet by an encounter with a priest.  He’d been on fire for the Lord and a real pain for most of the people he came in contact with.  I’ve met them, like two fellows I shared a cab with in Dallas one morning Long ago, one of whom asked me if I have been saved.  “From what?” I asked back.  They ignored me for the rest of the ride and talked among themselves about hoe the Good Lord had showered them with blessings…in the form of new cars, big houses and stuff.

It’s one of my most vivid memories of three years in Texas.  And, I often wondered whose heart was made of stone.  Because, I could see, clear as the sun coming up it the morning, saving wasn’t about a big house on the prairie, and a son who was the star quarterback on Friday Night.

Figuring there’s about fifteen years left, I have made up my mind to accept the help offered, and follow the only road that leads me home.  There’s a couple of hills to walk over, or around.

______________________________________________________________________________

This was started a week or so ago. We just got back from another trip to the hospital about an hour ago.  My hands are shaking, and I don’t know whether it’s from too much caffeine or just being there for, what is it between us, the fifth or sixth time in three months.  It’s getting closer.




Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 13, 2018

A RAINY OCTOBER MORNING

It seems the rain will never stop.

Apropos of nothing more than a cold damp morning, good for not much beyond drinking tea, reading a good book and wondering about the world beyond the window, I picked up Robert Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”.  It has all the makings of a wonderfully dark, thrilling and depressing (aren’t they all?) Dystopian novel: action, characters galore, plot.  Anything by Orwell or Dick would have done but they weren’t around.

About halfway through the second chapter dealing with the 60s I come across about a paragraph of prose from another book written by two survivors, two converted radicals, named Horowitz and Collier.  In this short excerpt the reformed (I will not use the word which presents itself, they are sincere.) fellows describe a kind of collapse of that movement toward the end of the decade.

What to make of that puzzles me, but, never mind.  Using their information, Bork writes about a kind of “diaspora” that the, pardon me, rats undertake.  He spends a few pages reporting on where they nested, and what they did; mainly in the media, the universities and publishing.  They became, he writes, the “chattering” class.  Oh, he also mentions politics, I think, and entertainment; that last in connection with the media.

I can’t see much in the way of difference among any of those categories.  Perhaps there is some distinction between universities and the rest.

Now I must look for the Horowitz and Collier book, which should be a “fun” read.  I understand it was published in the 80’s and has been updated.  There will, of course, be nothing about the recent disgrace in the Senate; the happenings there reminding me, almost moment by moment, of episodes from long ago.

I have a feeling that a necessary element of dystopian novels is some sort of hope at the end. “The sun will come up tomorrow…”, don’t you know.  They even fly off to another planet at the end of “A Canticle for Liebowitz”.

Well, that may be something for the book.  Certainly, it doesn’t seem that way in real life; today, anyway.

I keep thinking, though, of men in caves in Italy, or wandering around in Hippo, or Assisi, or, please God, somewhere nearby.

Before I die.

Because, I miss a lot of things that were good.

And I think of my poor, dear father on such mornings as this, defeated by forces he never knew were attacking him; the ones inside his head. And the others behind desks making promises they knew were lies. He’s the man I pray for on such days, though he’s been dead an age or so.  And I think of my older brother, only gone three years.  An exile from his family even when he was with them.  He didn’t want the old way, and tried to make his own way.
The one afraid to fight what he couldn’t see or understand, and the other no fighter at all, but a wanderer, and long gone in search of what he left behind.
And me, still here, still trying to bring it all back home; waiting for the door to open and the outside to be inside, the inside outside, and God smiling at the end.  And hoping I can stand the light.
Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 26, 2018

A POEM ABOUT THE RIVER

DOWN TO THE SEA
I saw the group at water’s edge gathered
In a semi-circle where we launch boats,
Cast lines, throw stones, just sit watching
The river moving on down to the sea.
Some times they shifted slightly, waiting…
For what, I thought… As if I signal sent
They turned and walked up the bank. One came
Toward me, sadness in her step, on her face,
And spoke her name, Sherry; from down the road,
There to remember with his family
Her young nephew, now no longer living.
He was just thirty-six, and too soon dead
Her eyes, tone of voice and shaking hands all said
Before she spoke the name of her nephew: Greg.

I told her I would remember and pray
For him. “He came from here, but he had gone
To Connecticut and died there last week.
He wanted some of his ashes scattered on
The river. That’s what we were doing there.”
“Oh,” I said, “I thought it was a christening.”
I would still pray I told her. Then thanking
Me she turned and walked back to the others.

I stood, there on the river bank, later
Looking downstream; the deep, dark, slow stream,
Stone paved shallows at my feet, floating leaves.
What had been Greg had gone away downstream.
No trace remained, no little speck of him
On the river’s long way to the deep wide sea.
I turned away and turning saw the old man
In his old boat pulling against the current
To the spot where Greg’s people had just been.
Each day to this spot, mid-river he comes
Drops anchor, baits line, settles down, and waits.

Often I see him, sitting there mid-stream
Rocking if a breeze ruffles him a bit
Or a passing cloud casts a shadow down
On the water’s face. Always there, it seems
Always there so we may all meet the sea.

peg 08/22/2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 25, 2018

In Which I Write A Poem About Good Old Dad

My Father’s Song, for My Brother:
A Brief Chronicle of the Time of
Edmund John Gallaher 4/6/1913 to 4/26/1969

I will sing a song of my father, sing as I remember him
Nearly half a century’s gone, though his light has not grown dim.
He wanders still my memories, pacing, as I go,
Beside me, faithfully and gently; holding hand and heart just so.

The years amuse me in their passing by
Tolled like bells in some steepled church nearby
With times recalled ringing soft, ringing deep
Across the fields of days, the hills of years
Between the last loud laughter, the bitter tears;
Great wonder of his stature. I do weep
At good and ill most equally to see
My father covered in our sweet love who
From deep love fled until he turned, to me!
And swore his love that was ever and would be.

I think he was old before he could stand
On soft boned toddler’s legs, stretching a hand
For help to his own about the world.
His soft brown eyes, his bright red curls
Begging attention paid to him as due
All children. And they not there, the two
Strangers, children themselves; he a burden
More than love’s bright sign, promise made. But then
The world and need, which only God knows now,
To work and woe, far and long, would they go.
He would then be mere one more on the floor
Among the bundles dropped just inside the door
To be picked up when and if “Poor Eddie”
Should be brought next wherever was “could be.”

Grown indeed, more weed than flower in the sun
He was, uprooted, shoved; and always one
Among many, the little after thought!
“Poor Eddie” was the family’s name, and ought
It not have been so? He had shelter, sure,
But never had he home or place secure.

There’s a photo of him on a bridge
Easily leaning, in summer whites, with
An innocent, confident gaze, hoping
Under a clear sky; his manner open
It seems whenever I look at it. Those eyes,
I think each time that it might be me,
There looking into the future to see
The ones he’d love, whom he could call his own
At another time in the world full grown.

I know the place, though now it would be strange
So much time since then, so much that has changed.
That he was there is fact, and that he smiled
At least one time. “Poor Eddie”, lonely child
So young for these unnatural shocks. There
He seems composed although; complete and fair.

Soon he would be married and father of
Three. All in a decade come to love
The beauty of bride, mother, family
A real life to live, and place to thrive free.
Now his own in his own he must have thought
Among the bounty love and hard work brought.

So, they were! The very truth. Joy, happiness
And steady bliss with spouse and “spawn” in paradise.
The four little rooms in the big city
That never slept, simply furnished, pretty.
With a chair from here, a pillow from there;
The place in the basement, at the back where
Kids could play in the yard and lot nearby,
Where they had moved, escaping rats red eyes
And roaches’ filth. Worse than Harlem, even,
Our mother told him the day we were leaving.

He worked his job, nor was ever stayed from
Swift completion of his appointed rounds
The first fifteen brief, bright, years. Paradise, bliss,
As we, all of us, smiled, danced, sang, kissed
The days and seasons going by in turn.
Our opened door, our hearts, to all who came.

Oh, he had found, he made, family, home
Which he had always hoped to name his own
So Why? we wondered who lived with, in, him
The change so slight, then strong. Dark! Dawn, came dim
Which had always been bright. And night, black threat,
Grim, violent, bleak, endless and wild. Full blown
Rages in the dying light, great fear, deep harm!
Home, once sweet home, became a prison camp.

Then he disappeared : a deluge of booze
A mighty river of despair, his bruised
Soul swept away. While we mutely
Witnessed the catastrophe, “Poor Eddie” left us
Moved deep inside his own whisky soaked home
Where he at least would be safe, numb, Alone.

CODA
I saw him last alive on earth, breathing, barely
In the keep of loving nuns whose one care
Was to see him safely home to God
Along the way he’d so long tried to trod.
Immovable now, but with love made new
And in their prayers bound for heaven soon.

Two days before he left (what he’d left long
Before) we spoke last words; our own last song
Telling of the love each to each still bore.
And, doing that, left. Done then! There was no more.

peg August 15, 2018

Posted by: Peadar Ban | July 11, 2018

THE LADY IS DEAD

And here I am high above the huddled

Mourners in the pews, their heads bowed in prayer,

Me wondering if she may or mayn’t,

I almost always feel this way, be safe

For all eternity.  Will she get safely

Where we all, on some level, hope to be,

Back in God,s pocket as my father said,

And did very little about while here;

Confident, I do think, we would pray him home,

At last coming to assume the weight of

Responsibility for the ones who

Can do nothing for themselves any more?

 

I watch them filing out when Mass is done

Wearing sad smiles, wiping away last tears

And shaking hands, hugging old friends who’ve come

To show they love you and will miss her, too.

And, I wonder how long it will be before

Something as silly as a pennant race will

Put a stop to intentions truly meant.

 

Don’t we do it all the time?  Behave that way

Filling our heart with our own goodness?  But,

The lady is dead, and, God knows how I feel,

While my team, good as they are, needs prayers too!

P.E.G  July 11, 2018

 

 

 

Posted by: Peadar Ban | May 9, 2018

The Last Tulip

Quietly the rower gliding by seems

Less a man than spirit sent

To ride the silver surfaced river’s softness

Enchanting just another watcher standing

On the green bank alone in sweetest morning

Amid song bright birds, infant leaves, the last tulip

And his sun splashed arms pulling, pulling, away.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 27, 2018

WHOSE ONLY LASTING MONUMENT IS TIME

“Stop us!?” say the waves.  “We have rolled thousands

Of miles.”  The mountains at the shore stand

Still. Solid, granite walls wait silently.

Of stony calm wide gray oceans take no heed.

They have broken greater on wind, waves and rain.

 

I sit thinking while the river, such a

Proud thing pouring from old northern hills,

Now grown full, swift, before me, brings back

From those hills, up thrown a thousand, thousand

Years and more beyond counting, or sum I

Can measure, by deep Ocean’s waves or her

Cruel pounding storms and rains, born far offshore

Where none but sun and moon see, ancient stars

And silent space standing mute cold witness,

Water’s original home born in flame,

The cauldron cradle, nothing now but dust.

 

The river does the ocean’s will, bringing back

What pounding waves and freezing rain have carved

Out of aeonic stone from the world’s deeps.

Returning atom by atom, year by year piled,

The matter of mountains’ mother and ocean

As well, twins identical in Earth’s womb,

Or one, the Worm Ouroboros, some say

Appearing. Disappearing. Always here.

Whose only lasting monument is time.

 

PEG  02/27/2018

 

 

 

 

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